Founded in 1780 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1783 the Society’s purpose is “to investigate both antiquities and natural and civil history in general, with the intention that the talents of mankind should be cultivated and that the study of natural and useful sciences should be promoted.

The antiquities that society members, like Sir Walter Scott and Alexander Rhind, originally collected, form the basis of the collection at the National Museums of Scotland (NMS), having been gifted to the nation by the Society in the mid nineteenth century.

Two hundred years on we continue to promote the understanding and conservation of Scotland’s historical and archaeological environment for the benefit of all. Today we are an independent charity stimulating discussion and collaboration and supporting research.

Increasingly we’re involved in helping to translate the past for a contemporary audience, highlighting its relevance today. We publish high quality books and peer reviewed papers, run an annual programme of lectures and conferences (such as the prestigious Rhind Lectures) and administer research grants and prizes.

We also act as advocates for the heritage sector, responding to government consultations and chairing meetings and symposia. We are an impartial voice for Scotland’s past and a focal point for its diverse strands.

The Society is governed by a voluntary Council and run by a small staff. It is mainly funded by membership subscription with several thousand Fellows spread around the world all connected through their interest in Scotland’s past.


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